Last night was a particularly good one for Crystal Palace and Belgium striker Christian Benteke, who scored the fastest goal in World Cup Qualification history on his way to a hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Gibralter.
The Palace man was given the nod to start in the Algarve ahead of Romelu Lukaku by Belgium boss Roberto Martinez and wasted no time whatsoever in stamping his authority on the tie, robbing the Gibraltans of the ball from their own kick-off before racing into the penalty area, beating a defender and slotting a shot into the far right-hand corner of the net in just seven seconds.
It was exactly the sort of start most neutrals were expecting Belgium to make against the minnows, and following Axel Witsel’s long-range strike in the 19th minute, Benteke added his second of the evening from close-range after a ball into him from the right-hand side of the box.
The second half was, somewhat ridiculously, even more one sided that the first. Of course, the tiring legs of the hosts coupled with the scent of blood in the Belgian players nostrils was always likely to provide more goals, but by the time Benteke completed his hat-trick in the 55th minute via a beautifully executed backheel across the face of goal, you almost felt as though the referee should call a halt to the contest in a bid to save any further embarrassment.
Thankfully for those of us watching with one eye on this weekend’s Premier League home game against West Ham, Martinez saw fit to withdraw Benteke from the game for the final 10 minutes, bringing Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi on his place.
Whilst some will no doubt be fretting about the big man’s general match readiness, very little harm will have been done by him bagging a confidence boosting treble without breaking into too much of a sweat.
Let’s hope for a repeat performance in the South London twilight on Saturday evening.